How to create the outdoor workspace of your dreams

Lindsay Tigar, CNN Underscored
Mon May 11, 2020

In case you haven't been outside in a hot second, here's an update: Summer is coming. And while it felt like we didn't get to enjoy spring much, the warmest days of the year are ahead of us. Since stay-at-home orders will likely remain in place, at least somewhat, for the foreseeable future, many of us will continue to work from home.

But just because you can't go in to the office, that doesn't mean you have to set up shop indoors. For those who are lucky enough to have a patio, deck or backyard, consider taking your "office" outside. Not only will you reap the benefits of sunshine, leaving you feeling more positive (while wearing sunscreen, of course), but it's a way to enjoy the weather during an abnormal time.

The trick, of course, is figuring out how to stay cool, see your screen and get comfortable when you're away from the traditional office setup. Below, outdoor living experts and travel bloggers who have worked outdoors all over the globe share their strategies with us and recommend products that are beloved by reviewers and come from trusted brands.

Figure out a plan for power

When you're in-office, you probably don't give a second thought to battery life, since you're consistently connected to power. But when you're outside, outlets may not be easily within reach. That's why Nate Hake, a travel blogger and the CEO of Travel Lemming, says to figure out your plan for power before making the move.

"I travel with a simple extension cord, which is useful if your outdoor workspace is reasonably close to an outlet," he says. Another option if a cord isn't feasible is to use a portable power bank, like the solar-powered one below.

Try this: AmazonBasics 6-Outlet Surge Protector Power Strip ($10.99; amazon.com)

AmazonBasics 6-Outlet Surge Protector Power Strip

Chafon 40W Portable Solar Charger with Foldable Panel ($119.09; amazon.com)

Chafon 40W Portable Solar Charger with Foldable Panel

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Stay in the shade

It's tempting to multitask while working and attempt to get a tan, but on-camera travel show host Sarah Funk says shade is your friend. When we are overheating, we tend to sweat, which is uncomfortable when we're expected to be online from 9 to 6 daily. Not only will you have difficulty seeing your screen because of glare, Funk reminds professionals, but it's also bad for your skin.

"Working in the sun is not the same as relaxing in the sun," she continues. "If you have an outdoor table, I recommend getting an umbrella for it to help. Then you can work outside whenever you please."

And, as always, be sure to wear sunscreen, like this one below from one of our favorite clean beauty brands, which is SPF 50, non-greasy, fast-absorbing and offers protection against UVA and UVB rays.

Try these: Solar LED Lighted Patio 9' Market Umbrella ($88.99; wayfair.com)

Solar LED Lighted Patio 9' Market Umbrella

Supergoop Play Everyday Lotion SPF 50 with Sunflower Extract ($22; sephora.com)

Supergoop Play Everyday Lotion SPF 50 with Sunflower Extract

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Invest in a wireless keyboard and mouse

Proper posture and alignment are essential, no matter where you are or what you're doing. All too often, people grab their laptops and sit cross-legged outside, creating an uncomfortable position for their bodies. Travel blogger Lia Garcia says it's worth investing in an ergonomic wireless keyboard and mouse to provide the support you need.

"Since you're unlikely to have an ergonomic chair and table outside, it's even more important to save your wrists and arms from the additional strain," she says. "When paired with my laptop stand, this creates a miniature, ergonomically-friendly workspace that can be set up anywhere."

Try these: Logitech Wireless Wave Keyboard and Mouse Combo ($51.99, originally $79.99; amazon.com)

Logitech Wireless Wave Keyboard and Mouse Combo

Soundance Laptop Stand ($32.99; amazon.com)

Soundance Laptop Stand

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Use a real desk

Sure, you could plop down on a lounge chair, or maybe even sprawl across an outdoor sofa. But to ensure you remain productive, you need to be comfortable enough to go into full work mode. And to do this, says travel blogger Lisa Niver, a real desk is essential. While she's on the road, she works almost exclusively outside, and now she's doing the same during the lockdown. "I find when I am at a hotel with a couch and table I cannot work. I must have a good chair and a proper height table in order to work and not have back pain," she says.

While you can use your outdoor patio dining room set, you should also consider a portable option, says Niver, like this laptop station. You can set it up in less than a minute, and when you're finished using it, it folds up at the touch of a button. It even comes with a built-in fan.

Try this: Mosajie Portable Laptop Workstation ($46.99; amazon.com)

Mosajie Portable Laptop Workstation

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Create shade — for your devices

The biggest appeal of outdoor work is fresh air and sunshine. But all that heat isn't exactly good news for your computer or phone. As Hake points out, direct sunlight can make productivity suffer if you're worried about your devices running too hot.

In addition to scouting out a shady area, you can go the extra mile of protection by investing in gear designed for outdoor adventures, like this protective case.

Try this: Phoozy Computer Capsule ($59.99; amazon.com)

Phoozy Computer Capsule

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Consider an outdoor fridge

While reviewing a hotel one time, Niver worked from a cabana at the hotel pool that had a fan and a mini-fridge. These items aren't essential for meeting a deadline or attending a Zoom meeting, but Niver says they definitely make it more fun and cooler. To avoid having to go back inside for a snack or to refill water, consider a portable mini fridge that keeps your goods cold.

And yeah, having a fan right around your neck doesn't seem like a bad addition either.

Try this: Uber Appliance Countertop Outdoor Mini Fridge ($42.99, originally $99.99; wayfair.com)

Uber Appliance Countertop Outdoor Mini Fridge

iFanPro Neck Fan ($15.95, originally $21.95; amazon.com)

iFanPro Neck Fan

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Sit in nature

When you take your office outside, you can create a background that looks like paradise. As outdoor living expert Tyler Banken says, adding some color and a lush background will brighten your mood and allow you to thrive in nature. You can do this through various flowers, or with simple greenery.

"Having larger potted plants in your outdoor workspace such as palms, fountain grass or small evergreen trees will give your pots a 'dense-leafy' look and height. This is perfect to fill a corner or create an anchor along an open wall," he says. "Another planter element that's great for smaller/tight outdoor spaces is a vertical garden. Planters hanging from a wall or on a patio railing can break up big blank areas, soften spaces, and create a great backdrop."

Try this: AOMGD 3 Pack Macrame Plant Hanger ($13.99; amazon.com)

AOMGD 3 Pack Macrame Plant Hanger

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Set up an Ethernet cable

Depending on how far you are from your house in a backyard, or from your router on your patio, your signal outside may be weak. That's why Funk says it's better to use a long Ethernet cable and plug directly into your internet outdoors.

"Make sure you turn off the Wi-Fi on your computer once you do this or your computer might not automatically switch to using the Ethernet cable for the internet," she suggests. "Using this cable not only guarantees your internet is strong, but it also may end up faster than before because you're directly connected to the internet instead of using the Wi-Fi."

Try this: Cat 6 Ethernet Cable 50 ft White ($18.99; amazon.com)

Cat 6 Ethernet Cable 50 ft White

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Don't forget about hydration

Typically, a person needs at least 80 ounces of water per day. A general rule from nutritionists is half of your body weight in ounces. If you're outside and sweating more than you would indoors, you need even more. That's why travel blogger and photographer Laurence Norah suggests keeping an insulated water bottle near you. It's easy to forget during the day, but if it's cold and handy, you're more likely to take a swig.

Try this: Healthy Human Water Bottle Curve ($24.99; amazon.com)

Healthy Human 21-Ounce Water Bottle Curve

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Go easy on your eyes

Ever try to snap a photo outside in the blazing sun, and you can't even see your screen at all? The same thing can happen when you attempt to work from your computer at noon outside. Squinting all day puts major strain on your eyes, causing headaches and exhaustion.

That's why Norah suggests finding a way to give your baby blues (or greens or browns) a rest. If you're comfortable working in polarized sunglasses, that's a nice start. You can also invest in anti-glare laptop screens that help, too.

Try these: Wowsun Polarized Sunglasses ($14.99; amazon.com)

Wowsun Polarized Sunglasses

Kensington MP13 Magnetic Privacy Screen for Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch ($53.99; bestbuy.com)

Kensington MP13 Magnetic Privacy Screen for Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch

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Protect your skin from bugs

As you adjust to working outdoors and enjoy watching the sunset as you fire off your last emails, you may notice the arrival of some unwanted visitors — you know, like mosquitoes or other critters. Travel blogger Inma Gregorio says creating your outdoor workspace is always a work in progress, so if bugs interrupt you, come up with creative — and effective — ideas to keep them away. Candles and other repellents are step one.

Try these: La Jolie Muse Citronella Candle ($16.99; amazon.com)

La Jolie Muse Citronella Candle

Thermacell Portable Mosquito Repeller ($21.91, originally $24.99; amazon.com)

Thermacell Portable Mosquito Repeller

Note: The prices above reflect the retailers' listed prices at the time of publication.